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Rhubarb: the dessert vegetable

14 Recipes
A dessert of raspberry ice and rhubarb
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Sweet ways to eat your vegetables

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Rhubarb is a wonderful spring oddity — a vegetable eaten as a fruit — that works best when its tartness is used to balance sweeter fruits in desserts and drinks.

Experience rhubarb’s unique flavor in full force in a rhubarb compote. Slather it on your morning toast or with blueberry biscuits. Similarly, Church & State’s rhubarb tart relies solely on sugar to sweeten the rhubarb and soften its acidity.

More often, though, rhubarb is cooked in combination with fruit and berries — most famously with strawberries. Aside from pie, strawberries and rhubarb are delicious baked into a crisp and served a la mode. They also make a lip-smacking, brilliantly red sorbet. Alternatively, leave the strawberries out of the crisp and instead blanket it with a strawberry sauce. These stained-glass cookies are almost like little strawberry-rhubarb hand pies — great for eating your rhubarb on the go or at a picnic (after all, it is spring!).

Perhaps not as famous a combination but every bit as delicious is raspberries and rhubarb. For a light meal or snack, stir some stewed rhubarb and raspberries into hot cereal, overnight oats or yogurt or just eat it straight from the spoon. Rhubarb and raspberry make a vibrant ice and are delicious paired with the almond flavor in a marzipan tart.

Other fruit, like apples and oranges, also pair well with rhubarb. A rhubarb and blood orange compote lies beneath the concentric circles of macerated blood orange slices in this showstopping blood orange and rhubarb tart. It tastes even better than it looks!

If you prefer to drink your rhubarb, even if in infinitesimal amounts, rhubarb is a flavorant in some liqueurs such as Aperol and Campari, both known to have a somewhat — or very — bitter bite. For a refreshing cocktail, sparkling rosé wine adds a nice twist to the ever-popular Aperol spritzer, which is usually made with Prosecco. Another bubbly wine cocktail combines tequila, vermouth and Lambrusco with Campari to make Lambrusco on the rocks.

Okay, so maybe sipping an Aperol spritz or a Lambrusco on the rocks doesn’t qualify as drinking one’s vegetables, but it is nice to have one in hand while waiting for a rhubarb tart to bake.

Rhubarb and raspberry ice

The rosy pink color of this sorbet makes it an ideal springtime dessert. Raspberry vodka adds a nice fruitiness and lime juice a delightful tang.
Time 40 minutes plus chilling
Yields Serves 8

Strawberry and Rhubarb Crisp

Strawberries and orange juice balance the tartness of the rhubarb. The brown sugar crisp topping adds some spice and crunch.
Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Yields Serves 8 to 10

Blood Orange and Rhubarb Tart

When you bake and glaze the tart, some of the edges of the rinds burn ever so slightly, so you get a wonderful combination of sweet, tart and burnt orange flavors in the fully baked and glazed tart.
Time 2 hours
Yields Serves 8 to 10

Rhubarb Compote

This quick-cooking compote is like a super chunky yet saucy jam. Still-crisp pieces are refreshing and bright, not unpleasantly acidic. And you may get green, artichokes-like notes.
Time 15 minutes
Yields Makes about 3 1/2 cups

Rhubarb-strawberry sorbet

Don't feel restricted by the old pie-crisp-cobbler mold. Rhubarb and strawberry pureed together make a strikingly colored and perfectly balanced sorbet.
Time 20 minutes
Yields Makes 1 1/2 quarts

Church & State's rhubarb tart

At once rustic and refined, large rhubarb pieces are suspended in a delicate flan-like custard filling and baked in a buttery almond pastry crust.
Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Serves 8 to 10

Blueberry Biscuits with Rhubarb Compote

Combining the end of winter citrus with height-of-spring rhubarb and almost-summer blueberries results in the perfect weekend brunch or teatime treat.
Time 30 minutes
Yields Makes 2 dozen

Rhubarb crisp a la mode with strawberry sauce

In this twist on the classic rhubarb and strawberries pairing, sugar tames the rhubarb's astringency and the finished crisp is served with a sauce made with uncooked strawberries.
Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Yields Serves 8 to 10

Stewed Rhubarb and Raspberries

Rhubarb is simply stewed with a little sugar and water. The raspberries add flavor as well as the intense dark pink color that results.
Time 15 minutes
Yields Makes 4 cups

Marzipan tarts

The strong almond flavor of the marzipan accents the sweet-tartness of the raspberries and rhubarb.
Time 25 minutes
Yields Serves 4

Rhubarb and blood orange compote

Rhubarb and blood orange are a wonderful combination — both fruits are tart, but each in a particular way, and their flavors and colors complement each other.
Time 1 hour
Yields Makes about 3 cups

Strawberry-rhubarb stained-glass cookies

Rhubarb partners with strawberries in a jam that will fool the most vegetable-hating kid. The cookies themselves have a touch of cardamom, a spice so right with ground almonds.
Time 3 hours
Yields Makes about 20 cookies

Rosé Aperol Spritz

This Rosé Aperol Spritz cocktail recipe uses sparkling rosé instead of plain prosecco and includes fresh citrus.
Time 5 minutes
Yields Makes 1 drink

Lambrusco on the Rocks

Bitter Campari cuts through Lambrusco's sweetness and balances this sippable, wintertime spritz-like cocktail.
Time 5 minutes
Yields Makes 1 drink